How Barcelona residents are scrapping their cars for a free public transport card

More than 5,700 Barcelona residents have taken their vehicles to the scrapyard in return for a three-year free public transport card for the Catalan capital. Here's how to do it.

How Barcelona residents are scrapping their cars for a free public transport card
Photos: Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB), AFP

As of January 1st 2020, the most polluting vehicles in Barcelona and some municipalities on the outskirts of the capital will no longer have access to the city’s roads. 

That’s unless their drivers want to cough up fines of anywhere between €200 and €1,800 for driving around on week days between 7am and 8pm.

According to Barcelona’s transport authority ATM (Autoritat Metropolitana del Transport), the implementation of this low emission zone in the Catalan capital will mean 50,000 of the city’s most polluting cars and motorbikes are left parked at home.


It’s a drastic measure and one that lawmakers have known for some time wouldn’t sit well with commuters who were being asked to ditch their cars without any financial compensation. 

Therefore, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau decided in 2017 she would offer a three-year long free travel card called the T-verde to affected drivers who actually handed over their car to be dismantled at the scrapyard.

The card gives holders free access to Barcelona’s subway, TMB and intercity buses, the tram, Cercanías trains and the rest of public transport services available in zone 1 for a total of three years.

The T-verde (T-verda in Catalan) can be registered in another family member’s name, as long as they don’t own a private vehicle themselves. Applicants have to be Barcelona residents.

Another condition is that cardholders aren’t allowed to buy a new car during that three-year period unless they want to lose their free public transport rights. 

Barcelona authorities are offering the environmentally friendly exchange to owners of diesel vehicles that were manufactured before 2006, petrol cars from before 1997 and motorbikes with a registration plate from before July 2004.

Since October 2017 some 5,700 T-verde cards have been granted to Barcelona residents that have gone green, with an average of 240 vehicles being taken to the scrapyard every month.

City authorities are satisfied with the apparent success of the campaign but local environmental groups such as Ecologistas en Acción have called the figure “insignificant” so far, stating that an extra 50,000 vehicles have been registered in Barcelona since the T-verde measure was introduced.


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“We might be talking about people who didn’t even use their cars in the first place and who have simply done the maths and seen how the T-verde card was just a win-win for them,” spokeperson María García told Spanish daily El Diario.

Daniel Pi, technical coordinator of a Barcelona association promoting public transport in Barcelona, has pointed out that the T-verde card “isn’t the central measure” of a campaign aimed at curbing traffic pollution in the city, but rather “a nudge to get some people to take action” and ditch vehicles that are between 38 and 58 times more polluting than current models.

Barcelona’s ambitious ZBE (Zona de Bajas Emisiones) no-traffic zone is 20 times larger than the highly-debated Madrid Central catchment area, and more on a par with other car delimitation zones in place in London, Amsterdam and Berlin.

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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.